My Into the Current sculpture, created for the Kites Over Vista public art program, represents the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the marine litter that gathers there due to circular currents in the Pacific Ocean that act like giant whirlpools, trapping plastic detritus and other debris. The title of the piece, Into the Current, has a double meaning, alluding to both the ocean currents and the current reality of the health of our oceans.
The three outer sections—or fins— represent the movement of the currents while the spiral and the circle at the center signify the swirling of the marine debris as it moves toward the “trash vortex.”
As an avid beach cleaner, I found much of the attached pieces of plastic washed up on San Diego North County beaches. My sister and her husband, Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang, also provided plastic that they have collected from Marin County beaches. In addition, beach cleaners from around the world contributed bits to make Into the Current an international effort, illustrating that people everywhere have a direct environmental impact.
You can find Into the Current in front of The Wave Waterpark at 101 Wave Drive in Vista, California.
Marine debris can be defined as “anything man-made and solid in the ocean that isn’t supposed to be there.” An estimated 8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean every year, and 80% of it comes from land-based sources. It can travel through storm drains and waterways many miles from the coastline before ending up in the ocean where the currents in the Pacific Gyre can trap it in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
A study has shown that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean, and all of that plastic is damaging the ocean ecosystem. The facts are shocking and the images of injured animals are difficult to view.
Everything I pick up has the potential to do harm. When I clean debris off of the beach, I know that I am helping marine creatures who could become entangled it, and I realize that I am preventing sea life from ingesting harmful plastics.
Every bit I remove is one less piece added to the vast amount of marine debris that already exists. Estimates of the amount of plastic in the oceans vary, and the exact size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is unknown, but there is one thing I am certain about—an an ever-increasing amount of trash is washing up on the beaches where I walk.
If you would like to learn more, the trailer for the film A Plastic Ocean provides an impactful look at the seriousness of the problem. The short film Our Debris Filling the Sea offers an interesting overview, and the Trash Talk video series presents a kid-friendly introduction to the topic that is accessible and educational.
The actions of individuals make a difference, and there are things that everyone can do to help.
- Limit single-use plastics
- use refillable water bottles
- take your own reusable cup to the coffee house
- say “no” to plastic straws
- shop with reusable canvas or cloth bags
- Pick up litter and inspire others with:
- Only Losers Litter, Vista, CA
- H2O Trash Patrol, Oceanside, CA
- I Love A Clean San Diego, San Diego County, CA
- San Diego Surfrider, San Diego County, CA
- San Diego Coastkeeper, San Diego County, CA
- California Coastal Cleanup Day, California
- World Oceans Day, Earth
- Pledge to make a difference:
For inspiration, please enjoy these student-made public service announcements.
The marine debris that makes up Into the Current includes many unrecognizable pieces of plastic, but it also includes familiar things, and many aspects of modern culture are represented. Bottle caps, toys, grooming products, kitchen items, and much more are curated by the tides.
Look closely at the sculpture, and try to find some of the objects listed below. Can you spot items that you use in your household? Do you see anything that could have once been yours?
- scrub brush
- six pack holder
- ballon weights
- bottle caps
- sand toys
- tent spike
- teething ring
- Barbie hairbrush
- bubble blower
- bubble bottle
- spice shaker top
- Parmesan cheese shaker top
- Jelly Belly badge
- kite handle
- toy carrot
- My Little Pony
- dental flosser
- knife cover
- Starbucks splash stick or cup stopper
- shotgun shell
- reusable water bottle lid
- Vaseline lid
- toy golf putter
- reusable food storage container top
- EOS lip balm container
I am grateful to instructor Nick Scott and the students in the Metal Fabrication course offered through Mira Costa College’s Technology Career Institute. They did professional quality work as they constructed the complex 5’ x 5’ structure out of steel flat bar, rebar, and galvanized metal mesh.
For information about welding and fabrication courses available through the Technology Career Institute, please visit http://tci.miracosta.edu/courses-manufacturing-metalfab.html.
I am also grateful to Scott Jambeau at San Diego Steel Solutions who donated steel used to fabricate the sculpture.
This project would not have been possible without the encouragement of my sister and her husband, Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang. For close to 20 years, they have been collecting plastic refuse from Kehoe Beach in Marin County, California. They use what they find to create beautiful works of art that have been on view in museums and galleries world-wide. A short documentary film called One Plastic Beach tells their story. They offered their love and support throughout the process—and supplied beach plastic used in the creation of Into the Current.
Beach plastic contributions were also made by friends from around the world who are connected through social media. I am grateful to the following dedicated environmentalists who share my passion for reducing waste, picking up litter, and cleaning beaches. For inspiration, you can follow many of them on social media.
- Heather Cremia, @1stcreamiatwin on Instagram—Outer Bank, North Carolina
- Cate Dine, @cleancoast_angel on Instagram—Rothesay Bay, Mairangi Bay, Murrays Bay, Campbells Bay, Browns Bay, and Kennedy’s Bay: Aukland, New Zealand
- @drdross_the_jambo on Instagram—Monyash (the village), A515 (the road), Derbyshire, UK
- Don Elwing—Ocean View, Hawaii (Donate to Don’s Go Fund Me to help him keep Hawaii’s beaches clean)
- Anna Kaufmann, @anna.kauffman on Instagram—Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California
- Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang, http://plasticforever.blogspot.com, Kehoe Beach, Marin County, California
- Lynne Lushmore, @roiolo on Instagram—Stokes Bay, England
I am also grateful to the environmental activists who brought us together through social media and shared hashtags. To learn more or to join the one of the trash-picking, beach-cleaning, planet-loving communities, please visit:
I have been cleaning North County San Diego Beaches for years. I take photographs of the trash I find and share the most interesting images on social media in order to help others understand the seriousness of the marine debris problem.
Photo by Eduardo Contreras for the San Diego Union Tribune
My On the Horizon photographs and other marine debris pieces have been on exhibit at the Bay Model in Sausalito, California and at the Tides Thoreau Center in San Francisco. Into the Current is my first large scale sculpture made from marine debris. This summer I will have work on display at Carlsbad’s Dove Library.
On the Horizon at the Bay Model in Sausalito, California
I am also a teacher and I share my passion for the environment with the students through hands-on marine debris workshops that integrate photography and writing.
San Diego Area Writing Project—Young Writers and Photography Camp
For more about me, you can visit my blog, Write the World.
In addition, the links below will take you to articles/videos about me. There are also links to articles/videos featuring the students at the school where I work and lead the Green Team—a group of students that volunteer to help with recycling and campus clean-ups.
San Diego Union Tribune – Video featuring me on a beach walk http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/visuals/video/90992375-132.html
San Diego Reader – Article about my biofilter discovery http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2016/sep/08/ticker-seaworld-slapped-plastic-litter/
The Coast News – Article about my art work and the biofilters http://www.thecoastnews.com/2016/09/12/artist-works-to-raise-awareness-and-reduce-beach-trash/
The Coast News – Student presentation on marine debris for the Oceanside City Council http://www.thecoastnews.com/2017/03/23/del-rio-elementary-students-share-ocean-debris-studies-with-city-council/
San Diego Union Tribune – Del Rio Elementary School’s Zero Waste Program http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-oceanside-recycling-20161121-story.html
Fox 5 News San Diego – Del Rio’s Green Team on Earth Day http://fox5sandiego.com/2015/04/22/earth-day-reduce-reuse-recycle/